March 01, 2016

Responding to the drought: A dispatch from California

David Aladjem

As of this writing, California has endured four years of severe drought, or as the chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, Felicia Marcus, described it, “the drought of our lifetimes.” The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which provides a very large proportion of California’s water supply, is above normal for this time of year, even though California’s major reservoirs only have about half of their normal storage capacity. Scientists are predicting a strong El Niño event in 2016, but even such a strong weather pattern is unlikely to enable California to shake off the enduring effects of this extended drought. Therefore, this is a good time as any to evaluate California’s overall response to the drought and what it might mean for Western water law in the future.

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